The Role of the Audience

A Paradox

William Zinsser, the author of On Writing Well, says that there is only one person you should write for, and that is yourself. It is your job to please yourself first, then worry about the reader (Zinsser, 2006). This is a true statement in a perfect world, but in reality, it is not. In today’s online and social media-driven society, we always need to write for an audience to receive likes, shares, and favorites. 

When the audience is important

Think of writing as bowling. You are in control of where the ball goes, how fast, and the design or color of the ball. The same goes for writing. You control the direction, speed, and personality in your work. The audience you are writing for is like the bumpers. They are there just in case you start to go off track to bring you back to the center again. 

There are various situations when writing for an audience is essential. Academic, business, and entertainment articles should have some reflection in the writing. According to AIMS Community College, “knowing the audience for a particular essay is important because it determines the content that will appear in the writing” (Online Writing Lab). By writing for someone, you are providing the opportunity to connect, teach, and communicate with the reader. You might also be presenting the reader with an alternative perspective on a particular topic. 

When the audience is irrelevant

When you are blogging, journaling, storytelling, or writing creatively, you don’t need to keep an audience in mind. This type of writing is for you. You won’t be appealing to the masses, but you might inspire someone by sharing your work. 

Keep the audience in mind

Some sites will tell you that you should only write for your audience, and some will tell you otherwise. You need to be happy with anything you produce; otherwise, you shouldn’t post it. But, if you are posting or publishing anything, keep your audience in the back of your head. Without them, in many situations, you would not be writing in the first place.

References:

Online Writing Lab. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aims.edu/student/online-writing-lab/process/determining-audience.php.

Team, H. (2018, June 8). Write for your audience, not for yourself. Retrieved from https://medium.com/analytics-for-humans/write-for-your-audience-not-for-yourself-c3faca0417f4.

Zinsser, W. K. (2006). On Writing Well: 30th Anniversary Edition. HarperCollins.

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